Fresh off his second Super Bowl victory, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning paid a celebratory visit to "The Late Show" on Monday night.
"You know you are my favorite Manning," host David Letterman told the game's MVP. "I've told you this before, right?"
"Yes. Many times, many times. I get a Christmas gift from you every year. It's a jacket," Manning joked, prompting a cackle from the host. "The jacket, Peyton doesn't get a jacket. That's how I knew I was the favorite."
"How is your brother? What's going on there?" Letterman asked.
Manning said his brother, currently recovering from a neck injury, is "doing well." "He's just trying to get a hundred percent. He just wants to play football. I think he will."
Letterman expressed concern that Peyton might exacerbate the injury if he returns to the game.
"Everything's good to go. He got a good report from his doctors," Manning said. "He's healthy. Now it's just about getting to a hundred percent."
Manning was less forthcoming in response to Letterman's question about whether his brother would return to play for the Indianapolis Colts. "I don't know. I do not know that," he insisted.
Letterman was not convinced. "You know. ... Don't lie to me!"
David Letterman celebrates 30 years in post-prime-time television Wednesday, spent first as the host of "Late Night With David Letterman" on NBC, and then, since 1993, of "Late Show With David Letterman" on CBS. He went to CBS, famously, after NBC gave "The Tonight Show" to Jay Leno, in spite of endorsement for Letterman from its departing host, Johnny Carson (who in his retirement would also sometimes supply him with jokes). It was a bitter pill that still produces the odd quip from Letterman, nearly two decades later.
Carson's "The Tonight Show" was an institution — Leno's, not so much — but it wasn't a bad thing for Letterman to lose that war. The underdog status suits him; it allows him to position himself as an outsider, in show business but not exactly of it. (I speak relatively, of course, of a man whose 2011 earnings, from show business, Forbes estimates at $45 million; but every dog has his context.)
Leno, his time slot competitor, reliably draws more viewers, but Letterman has created a community, partly from having remained in New York: Right outside the theater doors, mad, bad, beleaguered and attacked, the city reflects "Late Show" as "Late Show" seems to speak for it.
The self-deprecation is, of course, also a kind of misdirection (and an inheritance from Carson, who perfected the art of getting a laugh on the back of an unfunny gag). Letterman is one of the great figures of television; it is his natural medium, both in the sense of an art he practices and the element in which he swims. He rules his turf; there is no desperation in his presentation; he does not need to impress you, or the celebrities who sit next to him.
As the king of all he surveys, he can afford to be himself; he is comfortable enough to be seen as uncomfortable — to actually be uncomfortable — though even his worst real-life moments and most sincere apologies for misfiring jokes have a way of fueling more jokes. He controls the field in a way that leaves room for accidents and integrates them into the comedy.
Letterman turns 65 this year; it has been a dozen years since he underwent a quintuple bypass, and he looks fit, if grayer and balder. But except to downplay his intelligence, he doesn't pretend to be other than he is. ("When I was your age I had a paper route," he told Lady Gaga recently.) Letterman is a private person but he is also a present one; you feel that what he offers you, from himself, from his show, if it does not amount to Total Disclosure is nevertheless something authentic, or at least more authentic than it needs to be. Like Carson's, his program is more party than sales pitch. Stars come to hawk their wares, of course, but there is also an acknowledgment of that process and bargain. (Tuesday night saw him filling an envelope with cash to tempt Brad Pitt onto the show.)
David Letterman celebrates 30 years in late-night TV on Wednesday. His first show premiered on Feb. 1, 1982, in the slot after Johnny Carson's legendary talk show, with Letterman as a sharp-tongued renegade, equally happy to ruffle stars' well-practiced anecdotes and make a fool of himself (and his staff) by partaking in wacky stunts.
Here are some of his most memorable moments. [Warning, some of these videos feature late-night language].
Letterman's first episode: The first episode featured Bill Murray, post-"Saturday Night Live" and "Caddyshack" and clearly enjoying himself with Letterman, who needles, "Now that you're well-known, is it harder to be funny?"
The Top 10 list: Letterman developed a number of running features and gags, the most enduring of which is the nightly top 10 list. The list is often topical and, as the years have passed, frequently read by someone making news themselves. One classic is Top 10 Reasons I like Being an Actor, as read by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. (No. 9, from De Niro: "Every time I go to work, I get to ask myself, 'I wonder if I'll see Harvey Keitel naked.' ")
You have to give him credit: David Letterman is never afraid to pry.
When Jennifer Lopez stopped by "The Late Show" Monday night to plug her new Spanish-language talent show, "Q'Viva! The Chosen!," Letterman grilled the "American Idol" judge about her pending divorce from Marc Anthony.
In his typically roundabout fashion, Letterman asked if there was any chance for an Anthony-Lopez reconciliation: "Having been through a divorce myself, I know that at some point you would think, 'Oh, is it worth all the anguish and the heartbreak. Why don't we just try it over again?'"
Lopez didn't bite. "Try the same one over again? I don't know what you mean," she said.
Letterman then asked Lopez how many times she'd been married, no doubt a sore spot for the thrice-wed star. While most mere mortals would blanch at the idea of asking J. Lo such a pointed question, Letterman pretended as if he genuinely didn't know the answer. It's one of Letterman's favorite tricks: feigning ignorance so that his questions doesn't seem quite so aggressive.
"A couple ... I believe in love," Lopez replied.
Letterman then asked Lopez what it's like working with her soon-to-be-ex on "Q'Viva."
"It's fun because we know each other so well, but it has its moments. The same things that didn't really work ... sometimes come up," she said, ramming her fists together.
Barbara Walters-like, Letterman seized upon this detail. "But what are those things? I want to know if those are the same things for you as they would be for anybody."
"Communication. You're talking and you don't agree on something and then you're like, 'Oh, be quiet,' " Lopez explained, breaking into nervous laughter.
Letterman pushed her to clarify. "So Marc would say 'Be quiet' to you?"
"No," Lopez admitted bashfully, confirming what we knew all along: Nobody puts J. Lo in the corner.
Joe Halderman, the former "48 Hours Mystery" producer who tried to extort $2 million from talk show host David Letterman, has been hired as a producer of Investigation Discovery's "On the Case With Paula Zahn."
Halderman recently joined the staff of the documentary crime series, and is not expected to work in the field.
Scott Weinberg, executive producer of "On the Case," said in a statement: "On behalf of 'On the Case's' production team, we have been impressed with Joe Halderman's professional accomplishments as an Emmy award-winning producer for '48 Hours' and CBS News. With the network's prior approval, the team has brought Halderman on as a producer for 'On The Case.' We are confident that Halderman will make significant contributions to the success of our award-winning investigative newsmagazine."
Halderman was released from jail in September 2010 after serving four months for pleading guilty in a case that put the spotlight on Letterman's affair with a staff member. Halderman admitted he demanded $2 million in hush money to keep from revealing information about the talk show host.
Jon Huntsman's rocking performance on "The Late Show" on Wednesday night was the latest example of a growing trend in American politics. In the not-so-distant past, visits to Sunday morning political talk shows such as "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" and "This Week" were all but mandatory for presidential candidates.
But in this election cycle, the once-mighty Sunday talk show seems less influential than in the past. Two of the current Republican hopefuls -- Mitt Romney and Rick Perry -- have avoided “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation” and “This Week" altogether. In contrast, nearly every candidate has made an appearance on one or more late-night talk shows.
Rather than submitting themselves to tough interrogation at the hands of NBC's David Gregory or CBS' Bob Schieffer, the Republican candidates — and even President Obama — have consistently opted for other, arguably more frivolous venues, such as "The View" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Some experts argue that, by appearing on entertainment programs, the candidates are getting free publicity without having to engage in a substantive discussion of the issues. By contrast, the Sunday talk shows are rife with potential for "gotcha" moments. Still others suggest that, in the current media landscape, the line between comedian and journalist is virtually indistinguishable.
On Wednesday night, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman paid a visit to "The Late Show," on the heels of presidential rival (and fellow handsome Mormon) Mitt Romney, who delivered Monday's Top 10 list.
David Letterman unveiled a picture of a long-haired Huntsman back in his high school days when he was in a prog-rock band called Wizard. "I thought I could make it big. I wanted to be Paul Shaffer," Huntsman said.
The confession prompted a request from Letterman. "Can you do a little something on the organ?" Huntsman happily obliged, joining Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra for a rollicking rendition of "Johnny B. Goode." It was hardly an impromptu performance, but Huntsman's skills on the keyboard were still impressive.
More critically for Huntsman, a moderate who's consistently polled well behind his more conservative Republican peers, the performance recalled Bill Clinton's now-iconic saxophone playing on "The Arsenio Hall Show" in 1992. Not a fond memory for Republicans, perhaps, but a moment that certainly resonated with voters. What did you think?
Last night, veteran journalist Barbara Walters unveiled her annual list of the world's most fascinating people in a 90-minute special on ABC. The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs topped the list, marking the first time it included someone who was no longer living.
More curious, though, at least for David Letterman, was the inclusion of professional egomaniac Donald Trump. Letterman has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump's headline-grabbing behavior this past year. When Walters stopped by "The Late Show" Wednesday night, he asked her to explain the Donald's inclusion on her list.
Sounding as if she was trying to convince herself as much as anyone, Walters insisted Trump belonged on the list "because, whatever you think of him, the man is fascinating. The day after someone else is elected, Donald Trump is still going to be saying that he's the candidate."
Like Trump, the Kardashians are not so much "fascinating" as they are "overexposed," but they too made Walters' list. She asked Letterman if he liked the Kardashians and, perhaps worried about endangering future bookings, he struggled to find an answer.
"Uh, well, I used to. I mean, I don't even ... honest to God," he stammered. "What about that 72-day marriage?"
Walters explained that the segment with the Kardashians was taped back in September, before Kim's abrupt split from Kris Humphries, Kourtney's pregnancy, or Khloe's impending move to Dallas. At the time, the family insisted they had no other big news on the horizon.
"You cannot trust the Kardashians," Walters declared. For once, she sounded as if she meant it.
On Monday night, Scarlett Johansson stopped by "The Late Show" to plug her movie, "We Bought a Zoo," but David Letterman was more interested in discussing the nude self-portraits recently hacked from Johansson's cellphone.
To her credit, Johansson seemed to have a healthy perspective on the ordeal. "Somebody stole my nudie photos. They were out there for all the world to see which was, uh, unfortunate, really," she said, laughing.
Letterman expressed sympathy for Johansson, but also suggested that the nude photos were, on the other hand, "a lovely thing for mankind."
It was a twisted compliment, perhaps, but Johannson appeared flattered. Despite the mostly lighthearted tone of the conversation, Johansson said the incident was "shocking" and "extremely creepy."
Johansson, who described herself as "lame" when it comes to technology, suspected something was awry when her email password changed multiple times over several months. "It meant the guy was there constantly, every 20 seconds, sitting there all pasty and sweaty and pervy and weird. And that's the creepiest thing, really," she said.
In the November sweep, CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" beat NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" among adults 18 to 49 for the first time since 1994, according to Nielsen. Letterman scored a 0.9 rating over Leno's 0.8.
Among total viewers, Leno retained a razor-thin edge, 3.6 million vs. 3.5 million.
"Tonight Show" has struggled to recapture its former glory since NBC reinstalled Leno as host in early 2010, following Conan O'Brien's brief tenure at the show. Before the bungled transition, Leno was routinely drawing more than 5 million viewers per night and Letterman was a distant second.
Another beneficiary of Leno's decline appears to be ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was the only late-night show to build viewership compared with last year, up 7% to an average of 2 million viewers.
Meanwhile, CBS' Craig Ferguson lost a bit of ground in his 12:37 a.m. battle with NBC's Jimmy Fallon, at least in total viewers. The NBC show was flat with 1.8 million viewers, while Ferguson slipped 7% to 1.7 million. However, Ferguson's "The Late Late Show" defeated Fallon's "Late Night" for the first time in a November sweep among adults 18 to 49.
On Tuesday night's "Late Show," sports-radio star Chris "Mad Dog" Russo stopped by for a chat with David Letterman. The main subject of their conversation was, of course, the ongoing abuse scandal at Penn State.
Russo voiced skepticism about Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who first reported former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged crimes. "If you saw your former coach assaulting a 10-year-old, are you going to be involved in his charity golf tournament five months later?" he wondered.
For his part, Letterman was disappointed by head Coach Joe Paterno, who until the scandal broke, ran one of the most well-regarded college football programs in the country. "Like everybody else, [I'm a] longtime Joe Paterno fan. We graduate players, we make them go to class, we make sure that their families are taken care of. On and on and on. We're on the side of the players," he said.
Given Paterno's track record, Letterman was let down by Paterno's decision to see the season through to its completion. "I wanted to see them forfeit the rest of the season. That's what I wanted to see," he said.
Russo insisted that the football team makes too much money for the university, which only provoked Letterman's ire: "I don't care. Once, it would be great to see somebody say there are more important things than college football."
In Wednesday night's Republican debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, his campaign in jeopardy after a string of lackluster debate performances, committed a gaffe of epic proportions.
Asked by debate moderator John Harwood which three federal agencies he'd eliminate if he were president, Perry said he'd do away with the Departments of Education and Commerce, but he drew a blank on the third. After unsuccessfully grasping for an answer for almost a full minute, he eventually admitted he couldn't remember. "Oops!" he said, in something of an understatement.
Given just how excruciating Perry's blunder was, Thursday's late-night pile-on was perhaps inevitable.
The field day began on "The Daily Show," where Jon Stewart devoted two segments to Perry's cringe-worthy performance. His overarching conclusion: With the blunder, Perry had effectively sealed Mitt Romney's fate as the Republican nominee. "You didn't want Romney? Too bad. You are now stuck," he said.
Stewart spent some time poking fun of the other candidates. He criticized Herman Cain for derisively referring to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy," and he described Newt Gingrich as the "Pillsbury Doughboy's angrier, know-it-all brother."
Then Stewart launched into a gleeful, slightly meta riff on Perry's giant flub. "Many Republican faithful thought Perry would be the answer to their prayer. Turns out, he was the answer to ours," he said. "A comedian can spend his whole life digging through the comedy mines for soundbites he can use to sustain his family. Sometimes a fella can lose hope. And then, Rick Perry gives you 53 seconds that can change a man's life."
Stewart struggled to isolate his favorite moment. Though he liked the part where "Perry looks like he's going to take a stroke to get out of the whole thing," and also appreciated when Ron Paul tried to throw Perry a lifeline, but eventually decided that Perry's nonchalant "Oops!" was, for him, the real highlight.
"That is not the four-letter word I would have gone with. Like it's a juicebox," Stewart said. "Oh, my God, my chance to be president of the United States. Oops!"
No doubt aware that he'd be the butt of many a joke on Thursday night, Perry attempted to beat everyone else to the punch(line). He stopped by "The Late Show" to deliver the night's top 10 list, "Top 10 Rick Perry Excuses." Perry managed to get a few laughs. For example: Reason No. 6 -- "You try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude." But the effort may not have been enough to salvage his image.
Other noteworthy Perry ridicule from Thursday night: "Conan" broadcast a spoof campaign ad in which the absent-minded governor forgot his wife's name, while Perry "fan" Stephen Colbert insisted that the "Oops!" moment made Perry look human. "That's something Mitt Romney would die for. I'm sorry, power down and restart for."